The Yusho Race
Yokozuna Hakuho said before the basho that he felt like spoiling Takakeisho’s party. He did just that in avenging the third of his Hatsu losses, and did not let history repeat itself on Day 11, running his record to 11-0 to remain the sole leader. Tomorrow, he begins the Ozeki/Yokozuna portion of his fight card with struggling Tochinoshin.
And then there was one. Hakuho’s sole pursuer with a 10-1 record is the next great Mongolian hope, M4 Ichinojo, who toyed with M7 Aoiyama today before dropping him to the clay and into the 9-2 hunt group. Ichinojo has faced all three Ozeki, defeating two of them, and is unlikely to face the Yokozuna, but he could well be Takakeisho’s final day opponent in a potentially high-stakes bout for both rikishi. The hunt group is filled out by Yokozuna Kakuryu, Ozeki Takayasu and Goeido, and M8 Kotoshogiku.
Tomorrow, Ichinojo has what on paper is an easy match against Asanoyama (M8, 7-4), while Aoiyama also fights a lower-ranked opponent, M11 Ryuden (8-3). The heavyweight clashes at the top of the torikumi have Goeido battling Takakeisho (head-to-head 6-3) and Kakuryu taking on Takayasu in the musubi (head-to-head 12-7).
Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin
Tochinoshin’s loss to Takayasu dropped him to 6-5, and he needs 2 wins from 4 bouts to clear kadoban. It seems unlikely that one will come tomorrow against Hakuho (head-to-head: 1-26). The subsequent three bouts will offer better odds, but none are against easy opponents: Kakuryu, Takakeisho, and Tamawashi, each likely with something to fight for.
Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run
Takakeisho could not record a second defeat of a Yokozuna, and fell to 8-3. Like Tochinoshin, he also needs 2 wins from 4 bouts to be Ozeki in May. He will next take on the Ozeki corps, starting with Goeido, followed by a maegashira bout that may well be against a yusho-seeking Ichinojo.
The San’yaku Ranks
West Sekiwake Tamawashi (4-7) now needs to win out to maintain his rank, and can only afford one loss if he is to limit his demotion to Komusubi. East Komusubi Mitakeumi won today and needs 3 victories to defend his rank, while West Komusubi Hokutofuji lost and will relinquish his San’yaku slot after a single basho. Ichinojo is in pole position for promotion, with a number of other contenders behind him, led by Aoiyama and Kotoshogiku.
The Makuuchi <-> Juryo Exchange
Dropping out of the top division: Chiyonokuni. Taking his spot: Shimanoumi (J1e, 10-1).
Yutakayama (M16w, 3-8) is now make koshi, and his record warrants demotion, though he could conceivably survive through banzuke luck.
Toyonoshima (M14w, 3-8), Terutsuyoshi (M14e, 3-8), Daishoho (M16e, 4–7), and Ikioi (M9w, 1-9) are the next rikishi in the demotion queue, and could pass and save Yutakayama with sufficiently poor performances. Chiyoshoma still needs two wins to be safe, while everyone else has probably done enough to stay in the top division.
Chiyomaru (J1w, 8-3) likely locked up a return to Makuuchi today. Enho (J2w, 6-5) has hit a wall with two losses and needs to start winning fast if he wants to make a top-division debut. Tomorrow he makes his second visit to Makuuchi to take on Toyonoshima is what could be an “exchange bout.” And that’s it for plausible promotion contenders, although a few Juryo men could make a late case by winning out.